Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death in people between the ages of 15 and 34 with almost 50,000 people dying in 2013. In addition, while military personnel are not at a larger risk generally speaking, the job and the stress involved in being in combat situations can increase a soldier’s risk for conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress related conditions that may be linked to suicide. In light of this information it is important to know how to recognize and prevent suicide and what to do if a friend seems suicidal.
Even if a person doesn’t confess to you they are feeling suicidal, there are usually warning signs before a person attempts suicide. Being aware of the warning signs is a huge step in preventing someone from harming themselves and in getting them the help they need to cope. While each warning sign is significant and should be taken seriously, the combination of several of these is an immediate cause for concern.
- Talking about Suicide: Many believe that if a person talks about suicide they just want attention; they would never really do it. This is not true. Talking about suicide is a definite warning sign. Examples include things like, “I want to die,” “you will never see me again,” or “I would be better off dead.”
- Hopelessness: A sense of hopelessness leads one to believe that the pain they are in is greater than anything else and nothing but death can make it better. Intercepting these extreme feelings of hopelessness and getting a person help can deter suicide.
- Things in Order: A person who is seriously contemplating suicide will often begin to get things in order for when they are gone. They may give away prized possessions or visit unexpectedly to say goodbye. If you notice this warning sign in conjunction with the first two, get the person help immediately.
- Dangerous Behavior: A suicidal person will often engage is dangerous behavior. They may drink more or do drugs; they may engage in risky sexual behavior. Behavior that consistently resembles a “death wish” should be noted and acted upon.
- Emotional Calm: Oftentimes, when a person makes a final decision to carry through with a suicide plan, they will demonstrate emotional calm and even happiness. People may think they are getting better when in reality they have settled the suicide issue in their mind and now are resting easy before acting on their plan.
If a friend seems suicidal you must speak up. Tell someone; tell anyone. Talk to the person about what they are feeling. If the risk seems low, try to get them to self-report to someone who can help them. If the risk seems high or you feel the person is in imminent danger, call a suicide prevention hotline or 911 immediately.
Be prepared to act quickly in a crisis situation. Never worry about someone being angry at you for being concerned. The risk is too high to take a chance. Knowing how to recognize and prevent suicide and what to do if a friend seems suicidal could in fact save their life.